Welcome to Cambodia
10/1/11 - 10/4/11
Phnom Penh, the largest city and Capital of Cambodia, is where I spent the last 4 days. I stayed with Alex and Ann, and their son James, who have lived there about 9 years. The city itself has very few skyscrapers, and it is mostly apartment buildings with shops on street level. About 2 million people live there, but the outskirts of the city quickly turn to rural Cambodian countryside. There are thousands of motorbikes around, even more than Bali had, and the main form of transportation is TukTuk rides: a little ‘carriage’ attached to the back of a motorbike. The downtown area has a beautiful waterfront along the Mekong River, which is actually flooding right now as it is the end of rainy season for them. This is the worst flooding recorded in the last 10 years (sounds similar to home!).
Despite the city being beautiful with colorful buildings all around, Cambodia has a very dark past. In the 1970’s the Khmer Rouge Government ordered a mandatory evacuation of the entire city, forcing people from their homes and marching them into the countryside forcing them to learn farming.
Then the city was transformed, local high schools became prisons and buildings were destroyed. Slowly families were ripped apart as thousands of people were executed at the hand of the Khmer Rouge. The S21 Prison, located In the middle of town, was once a beautiful highschool but was turned into the worst Prison of them all.
Today, the prison stands as a museum in the middle of the city, and it shows the history of how everything changed so fast.
Saturday James and I spent the day at the museum. Although I knew very little about the history of Cambodia, Alex and Ann have lived there about 9 years now and have witnessed the lasting effects on the families around town. The museum was terribly depressing, I would compare it to the Holocaust museum in Washington D.C., except you can actually walk through the rooms where the people were held, tortured and murdered.
After the Museam, we took a TukTuk back to their home, where I ate my first home-cooked meal in the last 2 and a half months! Anything is better than the cafeteria food that we eat daily at school, so I was very excited to be eating with their family.
I was then showed a documentary about Human Trafficking in Cambodia to prepare me for the girls I was going to meet the following morning. The average age in Cambodia is just 20 years old, with very few people having survived the Khmer Rouge rule. Because of that, many people have lost hope in building a family. The effects of this devastation have caused many families to fall apart, and many parents sell their children at very young ages. Small children are put to work as beggars in the cities, and many girls are forced to work in the sex industry. The video was very heart breaking, I can’t imagine a world where parents would sell their children, but it happens every day in Cambodia.
After an exhausting day, I crashed in the biggest bed since moving to Asia, and slept straight till the next morning.